10 Food Safety Tips to Make Sure Your Customers Keep Coming Back
Why is Food Safety Important?
No restaurant can do without taking food safety and sanitation seriously. Without appropriate food safety measures, a restaurant's emphasis on sales numbers would be moot. A restaurant that ignores food safety when handling food is sure to face government sanctions, such as steep fines and even shutdowns.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 50 million cases of domestically acquired food poisoning occur in the United States each year due to the action of around 30 known pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and parasites, plus several unspecified agents. This means that out of every six people in America, one is hit by food poisoning.
When you also consider that nearly 130,000 people are admitted to hospitals and over 3,000 people die every year, you can get a fair idea of the extent of the problem. The need to strictly maintain food safety and sanitation and prevent cross-contamination has also been heightened in view of the Covid pandemic.
Food poisoning symptoms include vomiting, stomach cramps, severe diarrhea, and fever. Young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and patients with weak immunity are at greater risk than the rest of the population.
Apart from biological hazards, food may have chemical contaminants such as cleaning agents, insecticides, and pesticides as well as physical contaminants like human hair, pieces of glass, packaging material, animal fur and feathers, and so on. If the food contains allergens or substances that cause allergic reactions, it would be dangerous too.
Food can be damaged by enzymes, pests, and exposure to too much air and light, in addition to microbes. Such food that has gone bad must be abandoned. Discarded food contributes to food waste, which is a big problem in the US. According to a survey conducted by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 30-40% of the food in the US goes uneaten. This equates to food weighing 20 pounds per person every month. As much as $165 billion worth of food is thrown away in the United States each year.
Yogurt, cheese, meats, egg products, and salad dressings are some of the food items that are extremely sensitive to temperature and time control. Food businesses, like food trucks and quick-service restaurants, which deal with a high number of customers and large orders, and seek to provide fast service have their tasks cut out to maintain food safety and cleanliness.
What Happens if Food Safety Protocols Are Not Followed?
1. Restaurants that don't comply with the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) requirements could end up serving unsafe food containing chemical, physical or biological contaminants. The HACCP food safety management system is very strict about food handlers adhering to high personal hygiene standards, ensuring that meals are prepared to safe minimum internal temperatures, seeing to it that countertops, dining tables, cutting boards, cutlery, utensils, etc. are washed and sanitized, and raw and cooked foods are separated. If deviations from the norm occur, the HACCP system suggests ways to fix them.
2. Food hazards might appear at any point in the supply chain if food safety protocols aren't followed. A food safety management system seeks to keep such hazards under control throughout the supply chain, from raw material production to procurement, and from food handling to warehousing, distribution, and sales. The International Organization for Standardization's ISO 22000 guidelines provide a strong safety net within the supply chain, making it easier to move food items across international boundaries.
3. Restaurants that are lax about food safety protocols will invariably find themselves entangled in legal battles or government sanctions. In the US, food safety rules are quite strict. The Food Code is prepared by the FDA, and local governments have been given the authority to draft their own food safety legislation in accordance with FDA recommendations. A restaurant can make sure that it obeys the laws related to food safety by being fully committed to food safety management systems. If these laws are violated, businesses may face hefty fines. Repeated infractions may result in the restaurant's closure.
4. Restaurants that demonstrate no dedication to public health will see their image significantly dented. As a result, there will be fewer customers and lower earnings. Customers will not return to establishments that they believe serve unsafe food. In addition, consumer lawsuits and government sanctions that may come from serving unsafe food will prevent the business from earning or saving money.
Unsafe Food a Global Threat: The World Health Organization (WHO) points out that contaminated food causes 600 million, or 1 out of every 10 people, to become unwell across the world every year. Moreover, globally, there are 420,000 annual deaths as a consequence of consuming unsafe food.
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Food Safety Tip No. 1 Strictly Follow Personal Hygiene
Wash your hands, counters, and kitchen equipment thoroughly and on a regular basis. Hands should be cleaned for a minimum of 20 seconds in hot soapy water before and after food is touched.
Restaurant owners should make sure that employees wash their hands in water that is hot soapy, and dry them properly before working with food, utensils, cutlery, other kitchen equipment, and linen, or in between food handling activities.
Employees should keep their nails clipped and clean, change their uniforms after every shift, and clean their hands every three hours.
Protective headgear and hand gloves should be worn when handling food. Gloves should be replaced between tasks or if they are torn or soiled. Food handlers must cover any open wound on their arms and hands with waterproof bandages.
Food Safety Tip No. 2 Separate Raw and Cooked Food
Raw and cooked food items should be kept away from each other. Harmful bacteria can be transferred from one food item to another. Keep raw meat, eggs, fish, and poultry separated from other foods.
Before reusing a marinade that has already been used on raw food, bring it to a boil. Use separate cutting boards and dishes to handle raw food.
Cross contamination may happen when fluid from uncooked food items infiltrates food items that have already been safely cooked or those that don't need to be cooked, such as fruits and vegetables.
Fluids from raw food items, such as meats and seafood, may contain disease-causing bacteria. Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate in shopping carts and in the refrigerator.
Food Safety Tip No. 3 Cook to a Safe Internal Temperature
Cook meals to a safe internal temperature. FoodSafety.gov, FDA, and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) provide detailed temperature charts that specify internal cooking temperatures and rest periods for a variety of food products.
The temperature danger zone for perishable food items is between 40 and 140 F according to the USDA, and 41 to 135 F according to ServSafe. Ensure that you keep food out of this danger zone as far as possible.
However, sometimes keeping food in the temperature danger zone becomes unavoidable. Ready to eat foods can remain in the danger zone for no more than four hours. A food thermometer, is therefore, an extremely important accessory in food preparation.
The following are some examples of safe internal temperatures for food products-
- Poultry and leftovers 165 F
- Ground beef and egg dishes 160 F
- Beef, fin fish, veal, uncooked ham, pork, and lamb 145 F.
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Food Safety Tip No. 4 Follow Cold Holding Norms
Put food in the refrigerator as soon as you can. Time and temperature controls for cold food items must be strictly adhered to for the food to be safe.
Cold holding of food essentially happens at temperatures of 40 F or lower. Maintain a refrigerator temperature of 40 F or less, and a freezer temperature of 0 F or less. Eat foods within six hours of taking them out of the refrigerator.
Every two hours, the temperature of hot-held and cold-held meals should be checked. By merely re-chilling food items that had been lying in the temperature danger zone, you can avoid the spread of pathogens and reduce food wastage. However, if the temperature of cold food items rises to 70 F or more, it is best to discard the food.
Plastic containers with tight-fitting lids are recommended for storing food. Also, don't keep the door of the refrigerator open too long.
Food Safety Tip No. 5 Follow Hot Holding Norms
There are a few simple steps for hot holding food as well. If the temperature danger zone upper limit recommended by the USDA is considered, hot holding of food should be done at 140 F and higher, but to be cent percent sure about maintaining safe temperatures, let's use 135 F as the upper limit, as required by ServSafe.
Equipment for hot holding must never be used to reheat meals. Use the oven to reheat hot dishes at 200-250 F before serving.
Ensure that eggs and egg-based dishes reach a temperature of 165 F before being served. To help manage temperatures and keep contaminants out, food should be kept covered as far as possible.
To uniformly distribute the heat, stir food regularly. Don't mix freshly cooked food with food that is cold or hot-held or to be used later. Food lying at temperatures under 135 F for more than four hours will not be fit for consumption.
Food Safety Tip No. 6 Don't Thaw at Room Temperature
Thawing frozen food at room temperature is not at all advisable. The safest way to thaw food is in the refrigerator. To keep germs at bay, food in the refrigerator will be kept chilled at temperatures of 40-41 F or lower.
Thawing of food can also be done in the microwave oven, in cold water, or even while cooking. Food should be cooked as quickly as possible after being thawed in the microwave oven or cold water.
However, food that has been frozen or thawed will produce bacteria faster than food that has not been frozen or thawed.
Raw proteins such as meat, poultry, and seafood , juice concentrates, ice cream, combination dishes such as pot pies, casseroles, and pasta, and cooked proteins should not be refrozen.
Food Safety Tip No. 7 Clean Kitchen Equipment Well
Plates, cutlery, knives, countertops, cutting boards, and other food preparation equipment and kitchen surfaces must all be washed with warm, soapy water.
To guarantee that kitchen equipment functions properly and lasts long, restaurant sanitation and hygiene requirements must be adhered to. Kitchen equipment is costly and regular maintenance will ensure that it remains in good working order.
Food handlers should not use the same cutting boards over and over again. Sanitizing water must be changed, and trash cans must be emptied regularly.
Wipes, brushes, mops, sanitizers, and detergents should not be allowed to come in contact with food products.
Food Safety Tip No. 8 Use Clean, Fresh Raw Materials
In order to ensure food safety, always use food that is fresh. Before eating, fruits and vegetables must be rinsed. On the other hand, fish, eggs, meat and poultry should not be washed. You should be careful of water splashing out of the sink during the washing because it could cause bacteria to spread.
Before opening canned goods, clean the lids. Choose fruits and vegetables that aren't bruised or broken. In your shopping cart, keep them away from seafood, raw meat, and poultry. Fruits and vegetables should be washed or scrubbed under running water, but it is not recommended to wash them with detergent, soap, or a commercial produce wash.
When you cut fruits and vegetables, microbes on the peels can sneak inside. Before preparing or eating them, remove the bruised areas. They should be dried with a paper towel that is clean.
Food Safety Tip No. 9 Conduct Regular Inspections
Restaurant managers should regularly inspect the kitchens, eating areas, and restrooms to make sure that cleanliness standards are followed diligently.
The kitchen must be thoroughly cleaned, and after the completion of each task new towels must be used to wipe surfaces that come into direct contact with food.
Equipment such as the oven, stove, and deep fryer should be sterilized thrice a week at the minimum. It is, in fact, recommended to undertake day-to-day sterilization of cutting boards, blenders, grills, countertops, and other kitchen objects that are used frequently.
A hygiene checklist should be prepared by the manager, detailing the specific cleaning tasks that must be accomplished by the employees.
Food Safety Tip No. 10 Keep Restaurants Well-ventilated
In order to safeguard Public Health , all eateries need to be well-ventilated. Ventilation contributes significantly to the sanitary standards of a food business.
For the proper preparation and storage of food, adequate ventilation is required. This will result in a positive consumer experience and ensure that employees are able to work in a healthy environment.
Commercial kitchens, in this regard, generate far more heat than domestic kitchens owing to the massive volumes of food being prepared, the methods utilized, and the larger number of people present. Heat, smoke, and grease can all pose serious health risks if a kitchen isn't airy enough.
How to Maintain Food Safety at Your Restaurant
1. Train employees-
Restaurant employees, particularly new recruits, may not fully know all the Food Safety regulations. As a result, they may forget to clean their hands properly or fail to separate raw and cooked food. These minor errors could have major public health consequences, as well as harm the restaurant's reputation and profitability. As a result, every food service employee should be educated on foodborne illnesses, as well as the need for proper personal hygiene, cleaning, and sanitation methods.
2. Use food safety software-
Hubworks' Zip HACCP software allows food businesses to track important food safety operations in real time. The Zip HACCP mobile app delivers regular food safety reports which enable restaurant owners to make timely decisions for the business from anywhere in the world. Updates can be synced across several devices. The Blu 2 Bluetooth food temperature sensor, which can be linked easily to the Zip HACCP solution, ensures that food is neither overcooked nor undercooked and that pathogens are eliminated. Zip HACCP contains, among other things, hazard control checklists, integrated temperature solutions, and necessary corrective action checklists.
3. Create a food safety culture-
This will inspire restaurant management and employees to follow food safety rules fully and without hesitation. Restaurant operators must make it a priority to ensure that food safety is not jeopardized in the pursuit of profit. Managers should take all violation of food safety protocols seriously and take corrective action as soon as possible. Employees who take preventative measures to ensure that food is safely prepared and handled should be rewarded. Following established food safety standards should be a matter of responsibility and pride, not just to avoid 'getting caught'.
4. Undertake regular audits-
When it comes to public health, each restaurant's food safety practices must be independently checked and evaluated regularly. A thorough food safety inspection would deter businesses from cutting corners and breaching food safety norms for short-term benefits. Audits, therefore, would discourage chefs from making do with a stale ingredient, and keep waiters alert as far as maintaining personal hygiene is concerned. Some businesses, in fact, don't even wait for FDA examinations at the end of the year, but instead, enlist the assistance of third-party auditors.
5. Have a contingency plan-
Emergencies can't always be avoided. Despite the restaurants' best efforts to keep food safe, pathogens may infiltrate food at some stage or the other, resulting in food poisoning. In such circumstances, the item that caused the foodborne illness needs to be withdrawn, and an investigation needs to be undertaken to determine the actual origin of the problem. Additionally, allergens may make food hazardous. Food items of this nature must be recalled.